Cultured Meat Is Getting Awfully Specific

Australian start-up Vow creates lab-grown quail meat.

The race to bring lab-grown meat to market is heating up, as companies like UPSIDE and GOOD Meat have already been cleared to sell their lab-cultivated, animal-free meat in the country of Singapore. Enter a third company, an Australian start-up called Vow, with a new product that was recently approved for sale in Singapore last month. But unlike UPSIDE and GOOD Meat, which both produce lab-grown chicken, Vow has gone in a decidedly more wild direction and has unveiled something even more specific to the fake meat world: artificial Japanese quail.

The new lab-grown meat is called Qualia

Food Navigator reports that the new product, appropriately called Qualia, is derived from the Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), which is an adorably rotund little bird with tan and dark brown feathers. These are the same birds that produce the diminutive quail eggs you can buy at Asian supermarkets or find garnishing fancy dishes at high-end restaurants. In Japan, the birds are cultivated not only for their eggs but for their meat, as well.

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Much like how other lab-grown meat companies produce chicken, Vow isolates quail cells from a sample and grows them in a special bioreactor for replication. But instead of creating the product as a whole-muscle cut, Vow is turning it into a mousse-like application, mixing the lab-grown quail with butter, shallots, port wine, brandy, tapioca starch, garlic, various flavor concentrates, salt, and thyme. The final product is called Forged Parfait.

Vow is currently working on regulatory approval in different countries such as New Zealand and its home base of Australia and expects to have its products approved by the end of the year. Getting regulatory support from the European Union is going to be a whole different story, however — Italy has preemptively banned lab-grown meat within its borders, citing agricultural industry protections.

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And if the name "Vow" sounds sort of familiar to you, that's because last year, the company created a meatball using mammoth DNA. The Guardian reported that Vow filled any gaps in DNA info with that from modern-day elephants to complete the project.

The mammoth meatball was meant to be more of a statement on how modern-day livestock production effects the environment, because cultivated meat uses far less resources to produce, with zero methane emissions. Nobody actually partook in eating the meatball itself out of caution; after all, we don't know if people can actually eat something that doesn't exist in the world as we know it.

But quail, on the other hand, we can eat. Fourteen guests will be the first to try the Forged Parfait in Singapore's exclusive Mandala's Club Mori, in luxe applications like savory cannoli with caviar, milk buns with wagyu beef, and a Forged Parfait brûlée with port jelly and cognac-poached morel mushrooms. Little by little, we're inching toward a world where our meat consumption might begin to look very different — if companies can figure out a realistic way to make it all happen at scale, and affordably so.

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